I’m not a fan of visiting museums, especially when friends and family members like to take in four or five a day while visiting cities in-country or abroad.

I’ve been known to sit outside of art venues and start on a new book and nearly finish it. Fortunately, it was the first and last visit to an art museum in Holland recently when I believe I sensed a personal connection with a 19th century painter while observing his masterpiece for a few moments. Who was he? I can’t recall but I learned he was quite famous. He evidently didn’t want to spend a lot of time with me given the crowd behind me so I moved on, but I was truly impressed.

OK, maybe it was just my imagination but it sure felt like it was a mysterious contact for a few seconds. I tried it with a few other artists who must not have been in the mood for momentary contacts.

Everything matters in the blink of an eye, the whiff of a smell, the beat of a sound, the first taste of a sweet, the feel of a touch, senses that will become embedded in our brains for all-time. The fleeting hits provide an underlying subconscious source of positive and hopeful sentiments. We may seldom be aware of them in our life but they will manage to keep us afloat when we fear we are going under. They can link us to the past, tie us to the present and perhaps point us to a future.

Richard Wollheim, Professor of Arts and Kinetics, claims we can engage momentarily with artists of centuries ago by “Seeing In.” He asserts that persons can focus intensely for an hour or so on ancient paintings and the viewers will be able to bond with the artists for a few seconds. They may not recall the brief moments but the tiny pieces of hope will seep down into the corners of their mid-brains for the rest of their lives.

We may assume that those with serious mental conditions, including dementia, are not capable of capturing such positive fleet bonds that plunge to the depths of one’s cranial organs. Ah, but they can. The connections for them can emerge momentarily in museums, resonating with a few profound chords at a symphony, seeing a beautiful sunset, looking at an old sepia photograph of a relative, smelling a blossoming flower or having a brief bond with a pet.

The low-grade hope generated by those moments may allow beings to connect with the past and detect momentarily a promise of a future.

When and where might those treasured gems come to light? They may likely never emerge until we are about to leave this planet. We are not sure about what dying patients experience in comas or in their final conscious hours. I called on a patient in ICU who knew she would die soon. I asked what she was thinking about and she said she didn’t want to tell me.

I pressed her on it and half-jokingly advised her that pastors have to know everything about their parishioners. She smiled and finally confessed that she was in a peaceful state and was not thinking about her husband or her young children. She felt guilty about that. After a long pause she admitted she was reflecting on things and special moments that she thought had been forgotten. The images surprised her and they seemed to be important to her but she assured me she would get back to her love for her family.

We might assume that in our busy lives with all the information we take in over the years of having to memorize numerous home addresses, work places, phones, passwords, pen numbers, anniversary and birthday dates that they would override or push aside those deep-seated tender moments in our heads. But fortunately those endless numbers likely get lodged in our forebrain, the intellectual and reasoning regions of our minds and not the mid-brain nest where our deeper feelings reside.

In the last few years my elderly peers and I have felt the world is in severe chaos, more than ever, and will remain so when we leave this planet to our kids and grandkids. What if we have enough submerged positive energy in the recesses of our minds and our offspring to cause us and them to sense hope in humanity in those final hours?

Van Gogh declared “Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.”

– Vincent Van Gogh, written to his brother Theo, 1889



  1. Rachael Lehmberg

    Dave had that kind of mysterious relationship with Gustav Mahler. It often had him in tears while listening to a Mahler symphony. Sometimes he would whisper to me, “that poor man.” Although Dave had no idea how the relationship started, it was as real to him as his relationship with living people (or maybe MORE real !)


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